By Khaled Ahmed
August 4, 2018
Shashi Tharoor said India will become a Hindu Pakistan if the BJP wins elections in 2019. The BJP was deeply offended because in India, Pakistan is no model to follow. It wanted the Congress party president Rahul Gandhi to apologise for the remark by his partymen. Alarmed, the Congress distanced itself from Tharoor. But similarities on the surface can’t be ignored. Pakistan’s major living poet, Fahmida Riaz fled General Zia-ul Haq’s religious tyranny and sought refuge in India. If she thought she had walked into a secular paradise, she was mistaken and wrote a poem, “Tum Toh Hum Jaise Hi Niklay” (you turned out to be just like us) to express her disenchantment.
Hindu fanaticism has spread under the BJP to alarm the world but it is still not like what Pakistan has done to itself through its constitution and the penal code. Yet, India’s extremism will tend to shock more because of B R Ambedkar’s Constitution and how it is becoming irrelevant on the Indian street. Mamata Banerjee’s “Talibani Hindus” will become germane if India removes the word “secular”, put into the Constitution through an amendment by Indira Gandhi.
Islamabad High Court’s Justice Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui, who is under challenge by the Supreme Judicial Council for misconduct, thinks that the Ahmadi sect — already declared non-Muslim by the constitution and barred from voting together with Muslims and non-Muslims under a system of joint electorates — will have to be purged. The National Identity Card already requires identification by religion and Ahmadis are not supposed to declare themselves Muslims. What more does the judge want? You can guess. Maybe he wants them to walk around in special clothes so that they can be targeted by pious Muslims to earn paradise.
Pakistan is constitutionally unkind to its non-Muslims and women because the Islamic Law of Evidence gives them an unequal status. It is an ideological state which must converge through constitutional amendments to the “purity” attained by Iran, where formal opposition is not allowed and women are coerced to wear hijab. It is true that embracing a totalitarian version of Islam is what the Muslim states are converging to, provided the clerics know how to run the national economy and make people prosperous in their inhumanity. Pakistan is lost on the way but remains hopelessly path-dependent.
In many ways, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Recep Erdogan are comparable. They are taking the state back from constitutional pluralism to an order where human rights will be violated in the name of religion. Indian Muslims will suffer, as will the Kurds of Turkey. The erosion of democracy will be accompanied not by poverty but high growth rates, and a kind of apathy will spread with prosperity. Will India follow the “Muslim model” of Turkey or will it evolve its own “Hindu model”, which will make India look like Pakistan? The BJP will win the 2019 polls and Modi will keep on travelling away from the Nehruvian model that had kept India poor. He is definitely not like Erdogan or like a Pakistani general. He will be pragmatic and will not throw India into the isolationism that seduces most Muslim leaders.
But the rare Tharoors of our day will go on protesting. In Pakistan too, some people have a conscience and speak out. Tharoor began by embracing Indian nationalism and its anti-British Raj narrative and now resists India’s process of “going back” to the nationalism of its “real identity”. Tharoor will have a tougher time in Pakistan than in India. In Pakistan, the “quality of man” is much worse today than it was in 1947; and this is owed to the ideology the state had to embrace. Literacy has damaged the Pakistani man through textbooks that fail to help in the transfer of technology, given that an engineering university in “nuclear” Pakistan may boast a strong Islamiat department but is of no help in indigenising car manufacture like India.
Khaled Ahmed is consulting editor, Newsweek Pakistan